Slate on “Surviving Straight, Inc.”

Please go read Steven Slate’s piece on the new documentary about the “troubled teen” industry, created by survivors of the Straight, Inc. nightmare. He makes the connection between what some might consider a sort of isolated issue and draws a very clear line to the addiction recovery movement whose psychotic mythologies influence our culture so profoundly.

Here’s Steven Slate’s article. It is essential reading. When you’re done, please friend it:

Surviving Straight Inc, a Controlling Approach To Addiction Treatment Brings Disastrous Consequences

I wanted to also point out that one of the creators of Surviving Straight, Inc. started a website that we linked to in the blogroll. Troubled Teen Industry is a powerful resource and a compelling read.

[UPDATED]: I guess Steven and I were writing posts for ST at the same time, and I just happened to hit “post” before he did! Sorry, Steven… I scooped you on your own story.

Steven Slate says:

As of now, distribution plans for the movie are up in the air, and they’re submitting it to festivals. One thing that may help is making noise about it on the net, and showing that there’s demand for it. I don’t know the best way to do that, but here’s where to start:

The film’s website:

Troubled Teen Industry:

Reddit Troubled Teens:

I can’t stress how much these people have put themselves on the line by making this film and appearing in it. Along the way, one of the filmmakers even received a message ominously taped to his door which read “You won’t survive Straight Inc.” I’d hate to see their efforts go to waste. I don’t know the best way to support them, so I’m just starting by spreading these links around and talking about the movie with the means I have at my disposal. Many of the abusive methods of Straight Inc are still in use in Therapeutic Communities all over the place, and this stuff needs to be stopped.



  • Mitchell Baumann

    wow. i have never spent this much time reading such inaccurate assumptions and complete stupidity. What idiot believes there is a better solution than eliminating the guilt of using drugs and alcohol, getting a new and better life, and helping others that share the problem. Anyone who believes AA is a religious program does not know squat about AA. Any “A” for that matter. Science has not come up with a cure. It is an allergy attached to a mental health issue. There is no miracle cure and you wack jobs that think waiving some magic wand (or pill) is going to help are fools. It is the only system still around for over 40 years because it is the perfect program. It is us as humans that are not. Read the steps people they are a simple way of believing we can get better, live by rules that say don’t break the rules. Unlike the rest of society that spends most of its time acting shady and screwing each other over. I have volunteered in recovery and dealt with people trying to get better and live a normal and productive life. Helping them saved my life so many times I lost count. We are a society based on consumption and when one of us fails we would rather find a quick fix. Until one exists I will continue to support a group of individuals helping each other, sharing what is wrong, and doing whatever it takes to be helpful to another human being in need. It is comments like the ones on this blog that make me wonder who has the real issue ? AA, NA, CA are free. they cost the tax payer NOTHING. we are self supporting. I guarantee when one of you has a child or love one with a substance abuse issue you will wnat our help. We won’t laugh and say we told you so. We will stand up and help. That’s what we do. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Complain and investigate treatment Cneters, like all things, some arer good and some are a rip off. Focus there, not on a program that since the 1930’s has done nothing but stay out of the limelight and help others.

  • I take it that you chant Bill Wilson a few times a week and tell everyone it is Spiritual and not Religious?

    Could that have anything to do with your assumptions?

  • Lucy

    Mitchell – Perhaps you should look at the FAQ for this blog.

    I myself spent 27 years sober in AA, and there are several other members here with even more time. I think all of us know exactly what AA is and isn’t.

  • MikeAugustine

    Holy beard of Zeus, guys, the search engines must be catching on.

  • Lucy

    By the way, Steve, this is good work. I hope that the points you have made aren’t lost in another troll war.

  • SoberPJ

    Hi Mitchell .. thanks for that overview and scolding. There are several things that are completely false in your diatribe. The one I like the best is the staying out of the limelight comment. Do you really believe that?

  • Although I was certainly never subjected to the abuse that these people were – I’ve seen the same attitude and philosophy which is the foundation of those abusive practices – throughout the entire rehab system. It’s this controlling philosophy which needs to be killed off for things to change.

    William Miller’s Motivational Interviewing takes direct aim at it.

  • tintop

    Mitchell, a righteous rant.
    My reply to your most excellent rant Play the tape to the end!

  • causeandeffect

    I really like the allergy bit. That’s the 2nd time in 24 hours we’ve gotten that. Do they really believe that? Seriously? If so, why have we never heard of this mythical allergy anywhere but AA? Why aren’t doctors and researchers talking about this so-called allergy on TV and in newspapers? Why is there absolutely no research on this? Why can’t I take benedryl and hour before drinking and be OK? Why don’t I have an overwhelming urge to snort cat dander? Why, Why why?

  • causeandeffect

    HI tintop! Boy! You should have been here yesterday! Yikes! Read the Looking Glass.

  • SoberPJ

    WOW !!! She is realllyyy good !! Thanks TT.. without you posting that little gem, I never would have run across such talent … love talent … she SMOKES those keys !

  • Quagmire

    Mitchell what does your comment have to do with this thread, nothing mate. Listen please read the thread again. It is a extremely destructive Treatment Center they are writing about that caused great harm to many children and most are still suffering from PTSD.
    This program was based upon the 12 steps, children were forced to be there for up to 3 years.
    Mitchell don’t be a hot head like some others, read the article and see for yourself. I believe you will come away with the same conclusions we did. Sigh…..
    Steven, what a great article. Thanks.
    I am reading your blog next.

  • It always amuses me when I hear this statement from a fully indoctrinated member of the Bill Wilson flock:

    “AA, NA, CA are free. they cost the tax payer NOTHING. we are self supporting. I guarantee when one of you has a child or love one with a substance abuse issue you will wnat our help. ”

    They seem to forget why their Health Insurance premiums and taxes are so high. I believe the term is “selective amnesia” when quoting the words of the prophet. In the US at least, good health Insurance is hard to come by and when it is found, it is very expensive with usually a very high deductible. Steppers practice “selective amnesia” and always forget to mention that in Chapter 7 of the “Big Book” that they are supposed to go to your spouse, family, friends, clergy, doctors and occasionally law enforcement to try and have you committed in to a very expensive Rehab. This causes scarce resources to be unevenly distributed to a program relying on faith as a cure that teaches you that you will relapse causing even more treatment. This is why Health Insurance is so high and everyone that has Health Insurance pays for this program. It also diverts resources away from research and treatment for nicotine addiction which kills six times more people a year than Alcoholism while sending you to a program that nicotine addiction is much higher that the aggregate population.

    If you have no Health Insurance, Federal and State programs take over to pay for 12 Step Rehab at outrageous prices, raising Federal and State taxes. Again this is an example of “selective amnesia.”

  • I often kinda post and run n this blog which I think I think may give the impression that I anot 100 percent interested in the topics posted on this blog. Mostly, this is untrue. I am just easily distracted, somwhat busy, and not overly thoughtful in commenting, though I wish I could become more thoughtful. I truly and sincerely appreciate Slate’s work on this, as I also appreciate the other people’s work. And I appreciate MA and ftg posting it here, too. I will prolly write more on this particular post, as the idea of exposing Straight, Inc. is very, very important to me. This issue feels very close to me; however, please understand that I am not an actual Straight, Inc. survivor. It is also hard for me to think, write, and read about this issue for extended periods of time, as it is truly upsetting to me. This topic literally makes me physically ill.

  • tintop

    C &E
    Re the Looking glass:

  • Question for ftg: Do you mean, “please share it?” I am not sure what you mean by friending it? Is there an actual fb page with this information on it?

  • SoberPJ

    The allergy thing is so stupid it makes my head hurt. I have an allergy to Birch pollen and I have almost died from anaphylactic shock, so I kinda know a little about allergies. My drinking wasn’t an allergy. Of ANY kind.

  • tintop

    SoberPJ, it was, on topic. The Totetanz describes the pattern and practice of AA and our newest rantist. ( a rantist practices rantism)

  • Sorry, violet. I was just being an idiot… I meant, share it, tweet it, email it, pass it along by whatever social media outlets you subscribe to. 🙂

  • sunny

    @ Mitchell Baumann sez: “wow. i have never spent this much time reading such inaccurate assumptions and complete stupidity.”

    That cracked me up. If you tell me more about things you don’t like to read, maybe I can make some recommendations, and you can break your record. Tell me what kind of music you don’t like, and I’ll link you some tunes to listen to while you’re reading…

    To the point; that is a very well done article, Steven. I hope it garners some attention for the cause. I would be interested in viewing the (hopefully) upcoming film–it is compelling stuff. Just tragic.

    I’m reminded of a boy I knew in high school who was sent to an “Outward Bound” program one summer by his hysterical and completely uninformed mother. He was forced to hike for 3 months in the remote wilderness (supplies had to be dropped in by helicopter–to give you an idea of how limited his options were) while being subjected to all manner of abuse (er, “counselling”). He returned to the real world gaunt (half-starved), and hollow-eyed and never was the same in the time I knew him. I hope he is okay today, some twenty years later, but I’d bet money he’s got some lingering issues.

  • Norfolk Parents Tell of Heroin Death of Brilliant Teen Son…

    Freddy McConnel, son of cartoonist Annie Tempest and composer James McConnel, was found dead in his London flat hours after overdosing on heroin.

    He was discovered after his parents, who live in Norfolk, where the 18-year-old grew up, alerted a friend and the police because he had not been answering their many phone calls.

    When officers broke into the flat, they found the former Gresham’s School, Holt, pupil lying face down in bed surrounded by drug paraphernalia.


    Over the next few years, Freddy’s parents – who separated in 2006 but both stayed in Norfolk – tried to help him beat the addiction. Three months at a “wilderness school” in the American state of Oregon and a spell at a clinic at Chelmsford seemed to help, and yet he returned to drugs each time. His addiction had taken hold of him as tightly as his earlier interests.

    Mr McConnel said: “It was like he was playing table tennis. He wanted to be a superb drug addict.”

    At 17 – at a time when he seemed to be coping again – Freddy got a place to study music at a college in London and began to develop his musical talents. Although he left the course after just two months, he went on to book gigs and perform material he had written under his stage name, Freddy Tempest.

    “Had he lived, I think he would 
have gone on to become very, 
very special. He was a very 
insightful boy,” said his father.

    By July last year, things had deteriorated and Freddy returned home to Norfolk asking for help. He admitted he was addicted to heroin.

    His parents arranged for him to go to a rehabilitation clinic in South Africa. “He came out looking fantastic,” said his father. “Really upbeat.”

    And then he deteriorated and, only a few weeks ago, confessed to his father that he was using again. He began to see a counsellor and decided to keep living in London so he could attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

    Read the whole thing:

  • humanspirit

    @Steven Slate

    These stories are so tragic. I wish the film absolutely every success. That adolescents can be “troublesome” is well-documented, almost axiomatic (and something that parents often completely overreact to, forgetting their own adolescence). But this is a time of life when a person growing is growing into adulthood, experimenting, testing the boundaries, and – what is often lost in this debate – often have many genuine, legitimate issues that really do need addressing and talking about. (For example when I was a teenager I suffered from what I now recognize as very serious depression – this was dismissed at the time as mere “adolescent moodiness” and rebelliousness. I think – I hope – things have improved since then, at least in the UK.)

    Teenagers are at a stage in life when they are just beginning – quite naturally and necessarily – to break away from and question adult control. If they are allowed to do this gradually and in a context of love and respect, and if they allowed to make their own mistakes and learn from them, and if their transgressions are not elevated and dramatized to the point of demonization, then most will do just fine in the end. What they absolutely do not need is a prison-like regime and institutionalized bullying and abuse. How is this supposed to help them grow into decent adults in any way? Like all other 12-step methodologies, it goes against anything know about human psychology and old-fashioned human nature.

    We can’t legislate to have wise parents who will always make the right choices for their kids, and the vast majority of parents are just doing their best. But most parents, however worried they are about their children or however helpless they feel, would never knowingly do anything to put their child at such risk and cause them such unhappiness. Publicizing the abuse that goes on in such places may well make parents tempted by this extreme “treatment” to think again. Thank you – you are doing such important work.

    (Sorry that this thread seems to have been derailed by an AA nutter, btw.)

  • I knew a young 16 year old girl who grew up in a very strict Religious family. She was considered a “Goody two Shoes” in school and was very polite and well dressed. She was an honors student and one of those people you would consider “most likely to succeed.” She made the mistake of drinking a of beer at a friends house one weekend and her parents smelled it on her breath. It started an immediate downward spiral.

    Her parents talked to their pastor and decided to send her to a Straight style program. This was a sweet sixteen girl who I do not think had ever been kissed or drunk and sent into an abusive environment with many “hardcore” juveniles that she was forced to become friends with. She left after a 30 day stay and immediately started dating a boy she had met in the program. This was her first boy friend. She then rebelled against her parents for what they had done to her.

    Her new and first boyfriend lived a very hard life and soon turned 18 and left his parents and moved into an apartment with friends. They young girl had lost all of her friends from church and school because she was now labeled an Alcoholic and had to find new friends for support. Unfortunately the only ones she had left were clients of the Straight type rehab who would talk to her or give her any support. She ended up moving in with them and found out she could become “emancipated” from her parents by some of the other people she met. She did this and dropped out of school.

    Fast forward a few years………. A girl came to me in a parking lot and knew me by name and asked me for a ride down the street. After a while I realized it was her and agreed. I didn’t recognize her because she wore old clothes and had a few teeth missing in the front that she later told me her first and only boyfriend had knocked out a few months before. She needed a bath and had gained a lot of weight. I went out of my way and took her to another town and dropped her off in a very bad section where she knew some people. Looking back on it, I wish I had offered more help, but instead I just talked to her for a few hours and gave her some money when I dropped her off.

    This is my only experience with these type of groups, but I can see how they can make people spiral out of control in an attempt to “help” people. They took a deeply Religious and innocent girl and sent her down the path of jails, institutions and death. This should not have happened. A few years later I was told that she had become a well known prostitute in the area I dropped her off at. I do not know if this was just a rumor or truth and never went back to find out.

  • humanspirit

    Ftg, I’m very interested in this Norfolk story (though obviously very sad to hear of yet another tragic AA/rehab casualty). The online agency – , trade name Triage Health Care plc. – that I used to get my partner into a private rehab centre recommends treatment centres in South Africa for UK people. Why? After all, it seems a very long way to go and a very random place to go to get treatment for someone in the UK – the US is closer. Just by chance, it appears that one of the directors of Triage Health Care owns and runs at least one very profitable 12-step treatment centre in SA.

    Of course this is just an observation (in case anyone decides to sue me). But it does seem to be a bit of a coincidence.

    These are the people that neglect to mention that all the rehab centres they recommend are 12-step and give no information whatsoever about what 12-step treatment consists of. Oh, – except for a very small bit in the forest of small print in the contract – that you sign after admission has been arranged (a moment of sheer, massive relief for most people) – which states that you should think very seriously about commencing such treatment for “those of an atheistic persuasion”, as, in their experience, such patients “may respond poorly to such treatment”. Strange that they don’t mention this anywhere on their website or at any point during the advisory stage. This advice was not offered in any spirit of helpfulness, btw, but was a legal disclaimer, basically saying that you couldn’t get your money back in that regard.

    It makes me sick that I paid big money to these fraudsters (sorry – rigorously honest people) who are playing so dangerously with people’s lives in the interests of their own profit. (Though hugely thankful that my “self-willed” , “stubborn” , and massively unspiritual partner managed to get and keep himself sober despite the pressure and bullying from the 12-step nutters he encountered in his rehab centre.)

    Possibly, of course, these fraudsters aren’t the same ones that I had dealings with. This is an outside matter on which I have absolutely no opinion.

  • what completey sux here is that steven’s article gets less comments b/c of the troll. i mean, i know it’s nobody’s fault. i felt like i wanted to attack the troll, too. but this time, i did not read what the troll said in any depth mostly b/c i wanted to respect the article and the victims it represents.

  • i do think we did give the story apprropriate consideration, i just, i dunno, had a fit of “don’t feed the trolls”. 🙂

  • humanspirit


    Yet another, truly tragic story. But I seriously wonder about the parents. They obviously had serious issues and were hugely neurotic around the subject of alcohol – I mean, for Pete’s sake, a kid drinking a beer! Why weren’t there any other adults in her life – teachers maybe – who might have counselled some kind of common sense? Sometimes children need to be protected from their parents by other adults, especially ones as stupid as this. But in our culture, parents seem to have absolute rights to do what they want to their children whether it’s right or wrong, or whether it violates their basic human rights or not.

    Just a personal anecdote – when I came home unexpectedly one night and found my 16-year old son passed out from drinking with his mates (one of whom had very sensibly put him in the recovery position), he just got a good old-fashioned stern maternal bollocking next day about what a completely stupid thing it was to do. But I think the resulting hangover was enough to convince him of this anyway. Now 30, he’s certainly never touched vodka or any other strong spirit since, and has certainly not become an alcoholic or even a “heavy drinker”. Kids do these things. It’s to be expected and this should never be pathologized or over-dramatized, because this will inevitably make things much, much worse and cause problems that were never there to start with.

    I shudder to think what might have happened if I’d been the kind of parent who immediately labelled him as an “alcoholic” for life and had sent him to one of these places or to AA. This isn’t just a glib turn of phrase – I really do. What would his life have been like if I’d done that? Completely fucked, probably.

  • joedrywall

    Help At any Cost by Maia Szlavitz is a must read eye opener!

    Here is a similar program in Calgary(a straight spin-off).

  • humanspirit

    Apologies in advance, all. The original thread is about a very important issue, which I’ve spent a bit of time treating with the seriousness it merits. But please indulge me in feeding the troll for a moment:

    @Mitchell Baumann says

    “I guarantee when one of you has a child or love one with a substance abuse issue you will wnat our help”

    Absolutely not. In a million years. The last thing anyone addressing substance abuse issues wnats [sic] is the interference of lunatic steppers like you. If you bothered to read anything on this site any further, you might find that this the whole point. You don’t offer a solution, and your away-with-the-fairies proselytizing is not welcome for anyone trying to deal with this issue in the real world. The sooner you people butt out of what is often a life-threatening matter and leave it to the grown-ups, the better. Most of us here treat alcoholism and addiction very seriously. We feel it is much, much too important to be left to a crackpot, ineffective religious program made up by a fraudulent 1930s salesman, whose agenda actually had nothing to do with tackling addiction.

    Or maybe you can explain to us what the 12-step program has to do with anyone trying to deal with substance abuse problems? Please share your wisdom and insight with us, because after much investigation and reading, I can’t find a single piece of advice on quitting drinking or drugging in either the 12 steps or the “big book”. But there is an awful lot of advice on how to seek out God, even though the god of AA seems to be a pretty emasculated, limited, and useless one whose only concern is about helping a few self-obsessed members of AA on a 24-hour renewable basis as long as they follow the 12-step program.

  • humanspirit

    OMG joedrywall, have just watched this all the way through. Kudos to CBC for making this program at all.

    One of the most chilling things was that when the boss of this outfit was confronted, he accused the people who complained of abuse and rape of lying because this is what addicts “do” – even though many of these teenagers were not actually “addicts” to start with (but even if they were – WTF?). I notice that he avoided doing a regular press interview.

    I might be naĂŻve, but I always thought Canada was a more civilized and advanced country than this.

    All, I know there are so many links here that there isn’t enough time to follow all of them up, but please make an effort to see this documentary that joedrywall links to:

  • sally

    Hi Slate, I’ve gone to your website in the past and had read about this. This is/was appalling child abuse. What got me most is that the other children were instructed to dish it out. It’s exactly what most (sane) schools and parents are trying to prevent. Bullying at it’s worst.

    I hope I never have to intervene drug/alcohol abuse about my two boys but I WOULD NEVER send one of them to a treatment facility as they are now and not sure I could ever do it in good conscious if I thought thier were dramatic changes. It’s too scary. It goes without saying I would NEVER SEND MY CHILD TO AN ANONYMOUS MEETING. I educate my boys now about substance abuse dangers…I’m rambling again. You get the picture :=)


  • Thank you Steven. We have just read all of the links. If this were happening in China (for example) amnesty international would be involved. We talked about this a bit in the community pages. Oddly it was Dan ny B who put me onto fornits.

  • hey Mitchell, you are in a tough room here at ST and you don’t get to preach, bully or fuck with any of us here like you might do to a sponsee or someone else in AA meetings.

    We are done with the shit that AA has handed out. I was in it for decades and have happily left.
    FTG thanks for posting this horror story about Scared Straight INC.
    This story needs to be on FRONTLINE.

    Sally- I agree.

    also Mitchell@we are self supporting.

    No AA is not. Half of the 12 million that AA Headquarters receives is not from AA members. It is from , rehabs, prisons, treatment centers. The sale of BB and literature by non AA members brings in this 6 Million dollars a year!

    Take that and smoke it.

  • DeConstructor

    Hey massive-

    Damn right.

  • decon-thanks:) Im not in the mood for Bullshit tonight, or some AA’er on their high horse. Here at ST we don’t have to listen to that BS and no one is going to talk down to us either!
    Mitchell can go to his meeting and share his sweet nothings for his 3 minutes. I heard enough crap in AA by AA members to last me a lifetime…

  • Thanks for the CBC video. Everyone here should seriously watch it. Kids, which is featured in it, is apparently an offshoot of Straight.

  • joedrywall
  • flannigan

    @Mitchell Baumann
    Why would you spent ” so much time reading inaccurate assumptions and complete stupidity”? You realize that ST is a 12 step muckraking website, don’t you? Please read your comment again. I am sorry what these people (AA/NA) have done to you. Good luck to you. And why would you waste your time posting drivel on a 12 step muckraking site? I really don’t understand your motives.

  • flannigan

    BTW- which ” inaccurate assumptions and complete stupidity” are you objecting to? Please be specific. And provide evidence that proves otherwise. Thank you in advance.
    And please check out FAQ; it will help you to “understand” this site.

  • Disclosure

    Mitchell Baumann Anonymous AA member says..
    “I guarantee when one of you has a child or love one with a substance abuse issue you will (sic) wnat our help”
    You sir are incorrect.
    When my loved one or child has an issue I will present them with ALL the resources at my disposal so that they may make a choice based on what is acceptable to them.

    AA may be one of the options that I offer but not without full disclosure of its religious tones, cult like characteristics, and the potential for the adoption of a dangerous new core belief system that can kill.

    Anonymous AA member, 15 years sobriety

  • @Steven, what are the steps posted on the wall at Straight on the picture on your site? I thought they were the aa 12 steps but they don’t look like the same wording and I can’t read them.

  • joedrywall

    @Human Spirit. We do have free Health Care here in Canada, so folks here can see addiction counselors and receive CBT and REBT. A lot of counselors will still refer people to NA, or AA mainly because that is all that is out there in most places. However, LifeRing Secular recovery did have their conference in Guelph Ontario a few years back and even had Charlotte Davis Kasl author of Many Roads One Journey as the Keynote speaker. The thing is Homewood Treatment Center is located within Guelph and from what I gather all of the counselors are in one of the programs. According to this article they could not attend or refer folks to LSR.

    The following link seems to have the mother load of links on the teen treatment fiasco.

  • Jonny Quest

    Surviving Staright Inc. was mentioned on this semi-interesting thread on “Tuff Love” on Sober Recovery, with the usual suspects saying that “giving a alcoholic options is not an act of kindness”:

    It did have an interesting “share” from someone who was subjected to “tuff love” by a rehab facility which essentially had control of his career.

  • Swamibedpan

    @humanspirit. I agree with everything you say. You are on fire today. Do any of us go and troll on pro AA sites. They are just soooo dangerously nuts.
    @massive. Ditto I have heard enough aa crap to last my lifetime aswell.

  • groovecat

    hey mitchell–fuck you.

  • groovecat

    hey mitchell–i meant “fuck you, asshole”.

  • STEVEN SLATE! WHAT DO THE WORDS SAY ON THE POSTERS ON THE WALL ON THE PHOTOGRAPH ON YOUR SITE? (I really want to know. They do not look like the 12 steps of AA but I can’t make out what they say.) Cheers.

  • I’m not sure. I’ve heard that Straight had reworded the 12 steps down to 7. So maybe that’s it. I don’t know though. It’s a publicity still from the movie.

  • Thank you Steven!

  • A nice little expose on Straight, Inc with links to all of the agencies involved if anyone is interested:

    “On January 7, 2003 the International Survivors Action Committee filed a formal complaint with the United Nations against Melvin Sembler, Director of the Board of Straight, Inc. for the charge of crimes against humanity. From 1976-1985 it was known as Straight, Inc. and had a reputation for abusing kids as a drug rehabilitation program. In 1985 it changed its name to Straight Foundation, Inc. in order to protect its money and its principals from civil suits. In 1995 it was changed again to Drug Free America Foundation. DFAF is a national and international drug policy think tank and provider of services for drug free work places. See Piercing the Corporate Veil. (For further information about human rights abuses see the shortened history below.) ”

    Read more:

  • The Seven Steps are just the 12 Steps a bit rejigged. The Three ‘Signs’ (!) are
    Think Think Think
    First things First
    Easy Does It

    Can you keep us informed about the progress of this film, Steven?
    Their forums are gripping. I can’t believe the abuse of human rights that went on.

  • I did not realize that the International Community wanted to arrest and punish Melvin Sembler, Director of the Board of Straight, Inc. The link provided above contains very valuable information as well as the documents he used to prevent being an International criminal with the charge of crimes against humanity. It seems very detailed and definitely worth a look.

  • Very Interesting…… according to this article, Straight,inc (under a new name) migrated to Australia in 1989.

    Do any of our Australian friends know of Spiritual Abuses to children at the hands of counselors starting around this time frame? If so, I think that the International Community on Human Rights Abuses would like to know about this. Since it was done Internationally, it would be under a different set of rules than the US, and all of the links for people to complain about it are provided on this website.

  • Dr Virgil Miller Newton is quite a character. Straight survivors often talk of the five ‘phases’.
    The Straight, Inc.. model that Newton used and later exported to his KIDS programs had five phases. In the first phase youths were not allowed to attend school, to speak about anything other than their addictions, to speak to members of the opposite sex, to live at home with their family, to read, to play outside, to go to the bathroom alone, or to eat sugar. In the second phase the youths had the same restrictions, but were responsible for supervising Phase 1 youths and were allowed to speak about issues other than their addictions. In the third phase, the youths were allowed to attend school and in the fourth and fifth phase, they were allowed to watch TV and develop relationships.[21]

  • I am a member of Amnesty International and this is their business, or it would be if it was happening in a different country.

  • Straight, Inc had changed their name and migrated to Australia around 1989, crossing International borders making it an International Abuse and covered by the UN. What would be needed is the Survivors of Straight to document members of that organization who may have done this. There is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity and it would be an International problem.

    This is similar to the Nazi war criminals that were hunted down and punished recently that had moved to the US and attempted to hide from the Global community. They had tried to hide and many of them were in their 70’s when the International Community finally found them. There are many International organizations that are still tracking them. I wonder if the survivors of Straight have thought about putting their information on these sites? They may only be thinking of US sites, but since the International community has already tried to punish Spiritual Bullies and Spiritual Abusers of Straight,Inc I believe it would be advantageous to add them to the loop with pictures and documentation if available.

  • This is from another troubled teen rehab.

  • Resource for finding groups who are searching for International Criminals and Crimes against Humanity. I believe that Straight, Inc and its members may be of interest to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. The links are growing cold and a report by them asking for people to come forward would have maximum global impact. I believe the perpetrators of the Spiritual Bullying and Spiritual Abuse of Straight, Inc crossed International borders in 1989. Specifically to Australia but may have also crossed into Europe making it an International crime which is covered by the UN. The UN covers all of these continents.

    What was done in 2005 to search out the Nazi perpetrators of Human Rights violations before either they died, or their victims died of old age.

    Germany: Nazi Hunters Look For Aging War Criminals

    Lets take it Global.

  • This reminds me of magdelen laundries.

    “Mary Norris ended up in a Magdalene laundry for disobeying an order. A teenage servant in Kerry, she took a forbidden night off, and was taken away to a convent where the nuns had her examined to see was she still a virgin (which she was). From there she was dispatched to the Magdalene laundry in Cork. Immediately on arrival, the nuns changed her name ? standard practice in all the Magdalene laundries. “When I went in there,” recalls Mary, “my dignity, who I was, my name, everything was taken. I was a nonentity, nothing, nobody.”

    How does this fit in with the judge who took kickbacks to send children there? Which was the thread in which Dr Drew suggested putting pot in a teen’s car and then calling the police, just to get them into one of these places?

    Some of them were there for over 3 years. They describe Dean Vause, of AARC, as ‘not just a doctor’, but he was not a doctor, as far as I can see. He got his training at KIDS of New Jersey. (I haven’t checked this, read it somewhere in my googling).

  • Melvin Sander, co-founder of Straight Inc, was US ambassador to Italy and Australia.

    Melvin Floyd Sembler (born May 10, 1930)[ is former United States Ambassador to Italy (2001–2005), and former Ambassador to Australia and Nauru (1989–1993). He has also served as Chairman of the Board of the Sembler Company, which develops and manages shopping centers, and co-founder of Straight, Inc., a controversial drug-treatment center. Sembler has been personally accused of being responsible for the claims of serious physical and psychological abuse that went on in his centers. Currently, Sembler serves as chairman of the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust.


    (@ftg, anyone, has ‘Scooter’ Libby any relevance to st and Straight? My brain is a bit full and I don’t want to put unnecessary information in it. Cheers.)

  • George Bush and the Reagans visited Straight.–legacy-of-abuse-continues-1

    Please listen to this.

  • They tried to start programs in Italy and Australia (where Sembler was US Ambassador), Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica and somewhere else. Sembler’s main interest was real estate. It is all in the radio program.

    These were children exposed to torture. The whole society was to blame.

    PLEASE listen to the radio show. Cheers!

  • ‘the film comes out in September, hopefully at Toronto Film Fest.

    Straight is now The Drug Free America Foundation, federal funded, advising the UN on global drug policy, advocating mandatory drug testing and endorsing Teen Challenge….globally Teen Challenge is in about half the countries of the world….Teen Challenge is also Federally Funded

    When pot is eventually legalized, these people will legislate mandatory drug testing for all school kids, ..they are in bed with the drug testing industry’

    says one of the makers of the film. What is the drug testing industry? That is a new one on me.

    How many people are making their livelihoods out of the 12 Step religion?

  • Disturbing information on an offshoot of Straight, Inc. that has migrated to Canada called Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre’s (AARC’s). Reported by Bill Brooks, Calgary Herald June 26, 2011:

    “The Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre’s (AARC’s) 14th Annual Message of Hope Gala Benefit Dinner held recently at the Telus Convention Centre was one for the record books.

    More than 1,000 people attended the fundraiser and succeeded in raising more than $1 million for AARC.

    In the past 19 years, AARC has graduated 464 teens along with more than 1,600 family members.”

    Read more:

    The 464 teens are the gravy train of this organization and they are attempting to squeeze as much money as they can from the families and friends of these victims as possible. They have already been paid by insurance companies for the teens treatment. They are capitalizing on this treatment and begging for money. 464 teens in 19 years is an abnormally small number of graduates for an institution of this revenue generation capacity. This appears to be a hybrid model of a “sober house” and a similar graduation rate of a large one, but the revenue potential per customer is astronomical.

    464 teens in 19 years is an average 24.42 per year or 2.03 per month.
    $1 million generated by of this one event is the equivalent of $2155.17 per graduate.

    The 1000 people attendance of this “Message of Hope Gala Benefit Dinner” statistically consisted of the friends and family of the current 24.42 potential graduates multiplied by 3 (mother, father, friend) or 73.26 people. The remaining attendees most likely consisted of the the staff of the program, the staff of other companies attempting to profit from selling them services, members of the court system, members of the probation department and law enforcement.

    WARNING: Approach with extreme caution – Dean Vause and Joanne Vause appear to running this hybrid money making machine that was based on Straight, Inc. a notorious profit machine that was primarily uncovered in Florida. To escape the possibility of legal punishment the guilty members of this organization fled to Canada and Australia in 1989. They will publicly deny any wrong doing. They are attempting to integrate themselves into the fabric of the court and legal systems of these countries. Because of this integration do not approach or contact on your own. Contact and report any activities only to a trusted Survivors of Straight support group.

  • Is Vause a doctor, or did he get his training at KIDS?
    Did you listen to the radio show?

    It is heartbreaking.

  • Hi everyone. I’m Kelly Matthews, my brother Steve died 25 years ago tomorrow due to the abuse he endured in Straight inc. We were both featured in the article. Kids are still dying and being abused to this day. You can see a current list of schools, boot camps and rehab that are known to be abusive here:

    We just had a massive Straight survivor gathering this weekend and had our first test screening of the film. It was amazing, we had a great response. A couple months and we should have a final cut. Very excited. Thanks for the support.

  • Hi Kelly! Thank you for the update. I’m so glad to see you here. One of our regular commenters changed her handle to “Watch Surviving Straight Inc” and linked to the movie page in honor of this effort — and plans to keep this handle until the documentary is out.

  • Very cool! 🙂 Thanks for writing this!

  • Hi Kelly. I posted a link to ‘magdelen laundries’, places where ‘wayward’ girls were put to work with nuns. (mainly in Ireland) By wayward, they were guilty of minute crimes, such as going out for a night, etc, as well as being ‘fallen women’. As far as I can see, they were slightly wayward teens. Big deal. They were made to do laundry work and the last magdelen laundry closed down in 1996, because people had washing machines in their homes. I am not comparing what they went through with what the survivors (and those who didn’t survive) of the TTI went through. But I wonder whether survivors of both are pursuing their causes through the same channels.

    ‘This week the United Nations Committee Against Torture (Uncat) issued a highly significant statement on the Magdalene laundries. It criticised the Irish government for refusing to acknowledge the pain and abuse suffered by women incarcerated in the laundries, the last of which closed in 1996, and called for a thorough investigation and compensation scheme. In doing so, the UN has focused international attention on what has become a festering injustice.’

    ‘The remarks by the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT), which has released a damning report on Ireland, follow similar observations last year by the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which said a statutory investigation should take place.

    Estimates put the number of women and girls who passed through the laundries from 1922 to 1996 at 30,000 but the religious orders involved — the Sisters of Mercy, Good Shepherd Sisters, Sisters of Charity and Sisters of Our Lady of Charity — have refused to open their archives.

    Originally set up to help prostitutes and women who had babies outside of marriage, the laundries became a dumping ground for unwed mothers and girls whose behaviour was considered promiscuous.

    Once referred there, the women were virtually prisoners, had their babies taken away, were abused and forced to work without pay. Many became institutionalised and could never leave. Some remain with the religious orders to this day.’

    Read more:

    That was a longer cut and paste job than I intended but the similarities jumped out at me. My point is: Are the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) aware of what went on and still goes on in the TTI?

  • Marcus Chatfileld

    You can find information about ISAC (now defunct) filing a complaint to the UN on behalf of Straight survivors at Janette Parker’s Medical Whistle Blowers website…I also filed a complaint and request.

    Straight became The Drug Free America Foundation…they are now “Special Counsel” to the UN on International Drug Policy Reform….

  • @Marcus, are you lot in touch with the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT)?

    If we can target UNCAT, which the magdelen laundry girls have done, perhaps they can talk to the UN Int. Drug Policy Reform.

    Need links.

  • Marcus Chatfileld

    No, I filed with the Inter-American UN Court or some such thing…somebody at some UN office reccomended that route…Janette Parker may have filed with UNCAT

    here’s my email I’ll send any links I can, just let me know

  • causeandeffect

    I must admit I haven’t been following this thread because it makes me cry–out loud.

    “Straight became The Drug Free America Foundation…they are now “Special Counsel” to the UN on International Drug Policy Reform….”

    This is atrocious. It’s unreal. I can’t stand it. What do I need to say and who do I need to say it too? I’ll email you Marcus.

  • Just watch the clips, c and e;

    The Straight, Inc.. model had five phases.

    In the first phase youths were not allowed to attend school, to speak about anything other than their addictions, to speak to members of the opposite sex, to live at home with their family, to read, to play outside, to go to the bathroom alone, or to eat sugar. In the second phase the youths had the same restrictions, but were responsible for supervising Phase 1 youths and were allowed to speak about issues other than their addictions. In the third phase, the youths were allowed to attend school and in the fourth and fifth phase, they were allowed to watch TV and develop relationships.

  • Marcus – are any of these abuses being carried out at institutions run by deities of the Catholic Church? If they are, there is an organization that is tracking the Religious and Spiritual abuse going on. They have a sophisticated network of databases, reporters and volunteers who keep track of abusers of their deity. You can learn about their initiatives here:

    Currently I am tracking the Spiritual Abuse that appears to be happening in Pennsylvania where Luzerne County Juvenile Court judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr was recently convicted of sending 4000 children to camps similar to Straight, Inc. illegally. The wilderness camps seem eerily familiar to Straight, Inc and numerous suicides have been reported because of this. Sandy Fonzo, has been very vocal about the fact that her son, Edward Kenzakoski, committed suicide because of the depression he suffered after being subjected to this treatment run by Hazelden. You can read more about it here:

  • The Catholic Church in Ireland is an analogy that gives me some hope.
    The ‘Christian Brothers’ have paid out some:
    And this appears to be the action group:

  • Marcus Chatfileld

    I don’t know of any Catholic involvement. Virgil Miller Newton, now Father Cassian, former Director of Straight….one of the most violent…was sued in several cases…always settled out of court….is now an Antiochian priest…his wikipedia page is pretty interesting…

    I wrote to his Archbishop, and was told to appeal directly to Newton.

    I asked the Archbishop to encourage his priest to acknowledge the damage he has done
    Newton went on to NJ where there were no state regulations on out-patient facilities, and started the KIDS programs and AARC of Canada, which still operates…

  • Marcus Chatfileld

    I have tried numerous times to get the media interested in this stuff…I recently wrote to Jessica Reed at the Guardian, I take it she’s in charge of gathering story pithces…

    If any of you would care to request a story in the Guardian, I’d love to see that through.

    In the US, the story might be too risky for the mainstream media…brainwashing is a taboo word… the stuff of science fiction and the paranoid

  • Marcus Chatfileld

    Thanks, I’ll write Mary…

  • Marcus Chatfileld

    my email would not go through to that address if you have another way to contact her that would be appreciated, thanks


    (nice to see that Rick Ross takes an interest)

    I will post on Dean Vause only when y’all have a bucket handy.

  • (vomit)

    Is he a doctor? I have read that he trained at KIDS. Does anyone have information on whether or not this clown was a doctor? I do not need any confirmation of his comedian status.

  • News from French Newspapers 21/05/2009 – Catholic Church – Ireland. France is also noticing Spiritual Abuses in Ireland with children and Institutions.

    “Report exposes ‘endemic’ sexual abuse in boys’ institutions

    Sexual abuse of children was “endemic” in Irish boys’ institutions dating back to the 1930s and church leaders turned a blind eye to it, a report has revealed. Ireland has been rocked by recurring revelations of such clerical abuse. ”

    “”There were no protocols or guidelines put in place that would have protected children from predatory behaviour,” it said.

    “The management did not listen to or believe children when they complained of the activities of some of the men who had responsibility for their care. At best, the abusers were moved, but nothing was done about the harm done to the child.”

  • Hope in the UK for helping the victims of child abuse in institutions is being taken very seriously by all political parties. A list of who is working on it and what they want:

    Doc. 12238
    4 May 2010
    Child abuse in institutions: ensure full protection of the victims Motion for a Resolution


    There is a BBC World Service on this prison that uses the methods used at Straight Inc on (mainly aboriginals) in South Australia. Hope y’all listen to it. Links on Keep Coming Back.

  • Sembler is best known as a Florida shopping center magnate and Republican fundraiser whose success in amassing funds for the Bush family won him two ambassadorial appointments. Such patronage is a sordid aspect of national politics, but seems trivial when compared with the truly dark side of Sembler’s biography. Long before he achieved prominence in national politics, he was the driving force in the “boot camp” movement that popularized the use of psychological and physical abuse of “troubled” children and teenagers.

    His own creation was a federally funded outfit known as Straight, Inc., which eventually fell apart amid multiple lawsuits and accusations of torture by teenagers abused in its secretive facilities.

    Sembler is real estate magnate who saw the opportunity (amongst others) to make money out of the bodies that he got his hands on.

  • Amnesty International should be on to this.

  • Mary Raftery, who wrote the piece on the Magdenlene Laundries, can be forwarded emails here:

  • Marcus Chatfileld

    Thanks for the contact info…I have sent an email to that address.

    If any of you care to write to them as well, requesting that would great!

  • Re: the connection between the magdalen laundries and Straight: look at the third comment on this
    book about the magdelen laundries. For some reason I can’t cut and paste it.

  • ‘For my sister, and other Straight Inc survivors’

    That is the author’s statement at the front of the book about magdelen laundries.

  • Forget those last two comments about the magdalen laundries. My mistake.

  • joedrywall

    Question: Is The Drug Free America Foundation(formerly Straight) any way related to the commercials Partnership for a drug free America?

  • @Joey:

    ‘Don’t be naive and think these types of places don’t still exist around the world.

    There’s a list of programs “influenced” by straight here
    Add message | Report | Message poster blueemerald Wed 29-Jun-11 20:03:36
    Straight is now called the Drug Free America Foundation.
    From the website

    In 1976, [Mel] Sembler and his wife Betty co-founded STRAIGHT, an adolescent drug treatment program. During its 17 years of existence, STRAIGHT successfully graduated more than 12,000 young people nationwide from its remarkable program.

    In 1976, [Betty Sembler] was one of ten founding members of Straight, Inc., a nonprofit drug treatment program that successfully treated more than 12,000 young people with drug addiction in eight cities nationally from Dallas to Boston.
    Add message | Report | Message poster DragonflyUSA Wed 29-Jun-11 20:06:12
    Currently, the only program that The Drug Free America Foundation endorses is Teen Challenge, which is Federally funded.

    Global Teen Challenge operates in 80-90 countries.’

    Not sure if that helps, but it might help to post your thoughts on this thread.

  • Marcus Chatfileld

    I thought they were the same for awhile…but they are two different organizations…I don’t know the relationship…if any…It’s worth looking into… could be related, don’t know though

  • Not related, MC, my mistake. They both seem to take ‘wayward’ teens into custody and abuse, but that was my own connection. My mistake.

  • The Corporation for Public Broacasting has on it’s board of directors, Elizabeth Sembler, Mel’s daughter in law. Is this of relevance? I would have assumed so, but I am not in the States.

  • ‘Just as Straight has successfully sued many parents for money owed who stopped payment having learned of the abuse.’

    Straight sued parents?

  • joedrywall

    Maia Szalavitz on Abuse of youth in Residential Treatment.

  • Thank you, joedrywall. Excellent video.

  • Loribee

    Ryland Shane Absalon is another victim of Straight, Inc. Convicted of murder in a cold case which he supposedly admitted to while at Straight.